The Art of Deception…..Also Known as Diving

By | November 27, 2013

The soccer “Dive” has become rather infamous in the football world. Many media outlets, critics, and fans alike view the act of diving as a sort of sacrilege to the game. Which is why, for a long time, I held the belief that pretty much everyone in the world hated soccer dives. That was until I stumbled upon the article on Slate titled, ” Why Diving Makes Soccer Great.” (1) Now, it is possible that the author, Austin Kelly, is playing devils advocate; but for the sake of argument I choose to assume that I stumbled upon the sole person in the world that actually enjoys soccer dives.


The base line for his argument has been brought up many times before and equates to the notion that diving is a skill. A sort of art form if you will. Specifically Kelly argues that, “Diving is like drawing a charge in basketball. When it is done well, it is a subtle (and precarious) art.” The argument is simply enough but its also bereft of any coherence. A charge in basketball is a fundamental foul call, diving in soccer is an attempt to get a foul call when none such foul was committed. Furthermore, a charge is drawn by a defender when an attacker is charging the goal too aggressively. On the other hand, A dive is done by an offensive player when they are frustrated because they cannot get by an opposing defender.

Clearly, I don’t agree with Kelly, but that’s the thing about opinions, everyone is entitled to them. Sure, good deception is a skill and the perfect dive is an art. In the same way that knowing how to pick a safe is a skill and pulling of the perfect bank robbery is an art but that doesn’t it make it good for the banking industry.

D.B. Cooper or Billy Bob Thorton in Bad Santa?

No matter what side of the fence your on, The diving “epidemic” has become a hot bed of conversation, especially with the upcoming 2014 World Cup. Sure some people argue( but probably only Kelly) that its good for the game, but most critics agree that it has become a problem in professional soccer. It has gained a special notoriety in the media as a laughing point in soccer but (finally) some federations are now attempting to take it more seriously.


Surprisingly, the MLS has become one of the first professional soccer leagues to address the problem head-on. In 2011, the MLS dealt their first fine for an illegal dive. The MLS handed Charlie Davies, a D.C. United Forward, a $1,000 fine for a dive that they believed altered the result of D.C. United’s game against Real Salt Lake (2). Since this first fine in 2011, the MLS has handed out multiple other diving related fines. However, the MLS is one of the only professional soccer organization in the world that is handing out retroactive punishments for illegal dives.

In the birthplace of football, The EPL, seems to have a much more lenient strategy. In a recent interview about Ashley Cole’s blatant dive against Crystal Palace, EPL spokesman Phil Dorward gave a groundbreaking statement; ” If a player is continually booked for diving, and it becomes a problem, we’ll visit the club and talk the player through what is a dive and what isn’t.” (3) Right Phil, because that’s the problem, Ashley Cole simply cant distinguish between what is a dive and what is not a dive. Brilliant.



Granted, perhaps fines are not the cure all to the diving epidemic but at least they are a start. Certainly, the EPL can’t think the catalyst for diving is education or the lack there of. A professional soccer player knows an illegal dive just as well as he knows the offside rule. The players are using the dive because it offers them an opportunity to win, and the only way to counter this is to somehow convince them that diving is not worth it. This could be done via fines, However, we have seen that in the NFL and NBA fines only work to a certain extent.It could also be done via suspensions, but then again suspensions have only stopped a handful of MLB players from taking steroids.

So while the answer to stopping the diving epidemic is unclear, it is clear that the EPL and other prestigious soccer organizations need to start doing something about it. Whatever it may be, fines or suspensions, it is sure to be more effective than an educational sit down.







8 thoughts on “The Art of Deception…..Also Known as Diving

  1. Pingback: Stasera mi butto - Wittgenstein

  2. Lindsey Barrett

    This post is an interesting commentary on a subject we’ve discussed less frequently in this class; not just soccer-as-culture, but soccer-as-tactics. The comparison of whether flopping is insidious or strategic to picking a safe vs. pulling off a robbery is apt; particularly as it highlights the notion that, no matter what the means, the end goal is to make off with the money. The idea of feinting as immoral plays into the narrative of ‘the beautiful game’– soccer isn’t a physical endeavor, it’s self-expression, kinetic lyricism, human poetry, making the perversion of that purity by the manipulation of feinting sacrilegious. But those are pretty high expectations for what is, after all, a game. And tactics like feinting, if effective, shouldn’t have to meet them.

  3. Colby Shanafelt

    I agree with Julianna that the comparison of diving to charging in basketball was very interesting in so far as the claim that it is part of the game. Yet, I would compare it more to flopping in basketball (where an NBA player will fake getting elbowed, etc. to perform a dramatic reaction in order to elicit a foul call). Chris Bosh (and the rest of the Miami Heat team) are famed for “flopping”, and unless you are a Miami Heat fan, no basketball fan can support such behavior.

    Thus, at least for Americans, I think that in a sports culture that values hard hitting, physical play, it is more difficult for us to accept diving because it seems as though it is more of a way to cheat the system than a strategy that is simply “part of the game.” And fittingly, it is also interesting that the MLS, an American football organization, is one of the only leagues to actually condone such behavior. Nevertheless, as I have watched more professional soccer, I have learned to hold back my grimaces of disapproval, and every time I see one of the players on my team fall down, I can’t help myself from standing up and yelling something. However, if I really want to see acting, I would rather see it in the movie theater than out on the pitch.

  4. Julianna Miller

    I agree with Vishnu, in that the frequency in which diving is implemented by players during the game is directly related to the lack of video replays. Players can blatantly get away with their feigned dives because if they get the call, then it’s final. The subjectivity and transience that is involved in making these calls, almost encourages the “diving” culture that has existed for quite some time now. I also enjoyed the article’s comparison of the diving culture to charging in basketball. This comparison does make it seem more like an art form and less like a theatrical reaction.

  5. Avery Rape

    Diving is something that is a big problem in the men’s game, however there are a few cases where it can be useful. There is a fine line between diving and “falling” when fouled. I believe that it is strategic in a close game where a player is dribbling in or around the box and gets fouled and instead of making the effort to stay on their feet, they just allow themselves to fall. This could be the difference between winning and losing in a season changing game. Diving in any other circumstance is obnoxious and during a friendly is unnecessary, but when the game is on the line, it could be a tactical move.

  6. Vishnu Kadiyala

    Making Video Replays available during the game will seriously cut down of diving. It’s a light on the modern game, and can only be controlled with fines and suspensions

  7. Kavin Tamizhmani

    I find this piece interesting because I wrote a similar article on diving a few weeks ago. In particular, I focused on the recent antics of Ashley Young of Manchester United in the Premier League. For his actions, pundits have suggested using some form of retroactive punishment similar to the one you outlined above in the MLS, but these deterrents seem to have their own limitations. While the fines and punishment approaches could have some potential effect on the diving epidemic, I don’t think it will be possible to change the widespread culture. Diving, as you mentioned, has become an art form with much to gain when used carefully in games. Unfortunately, diving has oftentimes completely altered the course of games with unnecessary send-offs and penalties leading to goals. While I agree on implementing some system to deal with these repeated offenses, as a certain group of players have garnered the label of being “divers, it will be difficult to distinguish between legitimate fouls and calculated risk taking on the pitch during the course of a fast-paced game which continues to avoid using technology affecting free flowing play. That being said, I look forward to how the various football federations take control of this issue in the near future.


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